I only had a few hours this year to check out the Alternative Press Expo and it was sensory overload as usual. There were hundreds of booths I could have spent days poring over, but whizzing through there were some definite highlights for me. Briana Miller, a local Bay Area cartoonist, had a beautiful series of aviation inspired postcards, delicate watercolors of handmade clothes, and a poignant comic titled Simple that I had to have. Swallow Me Whole, a graphic novel by artist Nate Powell published by Top Shelf, caught my eye. Just from flipping through the pages, I can tell he’s created a dark, emotionally complex world for the main character Ruth to navigate, and I can’t wait to dig into it.
Chris Ware was also there and gave a talk. He showed his latest animation for This American Life, and responded to audience questions, discussing everything from how he chooses colors to what it was like to work with Ira Glass. His process is to start with a basic script and plot line for a story, then to go straight to it without preliminary sketches, working on Bristol Board from the top left down. He says just like having a plan in life, it never really works out the way you thought it would, and you have to be open to changes and “happy accidents”. He says you have to learn to “trust in yourself and how your mind is organized to show you the way.” His intentions with his work, which is sometimes accused of being depressing and dreary, is “not to pound hopelessness and self-doubt into the readers, but in fact, the opposite.” The structure and beauty of his drawings are meant to show there is meaning and purpose in life even if the character can’t always see it. The colors he picks are to him “a naturalistic view of what the world looks like to a child squinting, and the black line is all that we’ve been taught superimposed upon our initial impressions.” Lately he’s been keeping a sketchbook journal of his daughter’s life and that’s keeping him very busy.